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Perry, Oliver Hazard 1785-1819

Naval officer; born in South Kingston, R. I., Aug. 23, 1785; entered the navy as midshipman in 1799; served in the Tripolitan War; had charge of a flotilla of gunboats in New York Harbor in 1812; and in 1813 was called to the command of a fleet on Lake Erie. On the evening of Sept. 9, 1813, Perry called around him the officers of his squadron and gave instructions to each in writing, for he had determined to attack

Oliver Hazard Perry.


Queen Charlotte and Johnny Bull get their taste of Perry.

the British squadron at its anchorage the next day. The conference ended at about 10 P. M.. The unclouded moon was at its full. Just before the officers departed, Perry brought out a square battle-flag which had been privately prepared for him at Erie. It was blue, and bore in large white letters made of muslin the alleged dying words of Lawrence— “Don't give up the ship.”

“When this flag shall be hoisted at the main-yard,” said Perry, “it shall be your signal for going into action.” On the following day he gained a complete victory over the British squadron (see Erie, Lake, battle of). When Perry had fought the battle and his eye saw at a glance that victory was secure, he wrote in pencil on the back of an old letter, resting the paper on his navy cap, the following despatch to General Harrison, the first clause of which has often been quoted:

We have met the enemy and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.

Yours, with great respect and esteem,

O. H. Perry.

Many songs were written and sung in commemoration of Perry's victory. One of the most popular of these was “American Perry,” beginning:

Bold Barclay one day to Proctor did say,
I'm tired of Jamaica and cherry;
So let us go down to that new floating town
And get some American Perry.
Oh, cheap American Perry!
Most pleasant American Perry!
We need only bear down, knock and call,
And we'll have the American Perry.

Perry's monument, Newport, R. I.

[143] Among the caricatures of the day was one by Charles, of Philadelphia, representing John Bull, in the person of the King, seated, with his hand pressed upon his stomach, indicating pain, which the fresh juice of the pear, called perry, will produce. Queen Charlotte, the King's wife (a fair likeness of whom is given), enters with a bottle labelled “Perry,” out of which the cork has flown, and in the foam are seen the names of the vessels composing the American squadron. She says, “Johnny, won't you take some more perry?” John Bull replies, while writhing in pain produced by perry, “Oh! Perry! Curse that Perry! One disaster after another—I have not half recovered of the bloody nose I got at the boxingmatch!” This last expression refers to the capture of the Boxer by the American schooner Enterprise. This caricature is entitled “Queen Charlotte and Johnny Bull got their dose of Perry.” The point will be better perceived by remembering that one of the principal vessels of the British squadron was named the Queen Charlotte, in honor of the royal consort. In a ballad of the day occur the following lines:

On Erie's wave, while Barclay brave,
With Charlotte making merry,
He chanced to take the belly-ache,
We drenched him so with Perry.

At the time of his great victory Perry was only master-commander, but was immediately promoted to captain, and received the thanks of Congress and a medal. He assisted Harrison in retaking Detroit late in 1813. In 1815 he commanded the Java in Decatur's squadron in the Mediterranean, and in 1819 was sent against the pirates in the West Indies. He died in Port Spain, Trinidad, Aug. 23, 1819. The name and fame of Perry is held in loving remembrance by all Americans. In 1860 a fine marble statue of him by Walcutt was erected in a public square in Cleveland, O., with imposing ceremonies, and a monument to his memory has been erected in Newport, R. I. At the unveiling of the statue at Cleveland, George Bancroft delivered an address; Dr. Usher Parsons, Perry's surgeon in the fight on Lake Erie, read an historical discourse, and, at a dinner afterwards, about 300

Perry's statue, Cleveland, O.

surviving soldiers of the War of 1812-15 sat down.

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